Burnett: Fruit growing synonymous with Okanagan history

The fruit crops are amazing this year with a bumper crop of cherries and apricots. Early peaches are coming on now and for the most part the apple and pear crops look good.

The Italian prunes look to be in good shape for fall and the grapes and kiwis are showing great potential.

Besides the heat and sunshine we offer in the Okanagan it is the abundance of beautiful fruit that attracts so many to visit and subsequently move to our valley.

I so often hear new clients say to me: “We visited the Okanagan every summer with our family as kids then kept up the tradition with our children and vowed we would someday retire here; and here we are.”

After a visit to the valley most will take home boxes of fruit to treat their friends who may not have been able to make the trek, and of course some for themselves to eat and preserve.

When my Grandpa moved his family here in 1922 he took trips back to Weyburn a couple of times to see if he could sell the farm they left to come to what he called “paradise.” The trips back in an old Model T Ford were made even more arduous with every available space packed with boxes of apples and pears.

Grandpa was a pretty popular guy with the families back in Weyburn in those days.

Just imagine our beautiful valley without its abundant fruit production. Just imagine driving through the vast orchards in East Kelowna and Belgo, Lakeview Heights and Lake Country and several other fruitful areas up and down the valley without seeing the orchards and smelling the apples ripening in fall.

Now, just imagine when these could be seen and whiffed right downtown.

Even when I was a young boy in the 1950s, I can remember there being more orchard land than homes in what is now the centre of town. Much of the area north of Bernard was orchard, in particular once you got east of Gordon Drive.

All of the land and much more that Capri Shopping Centre now occupies was the Pridham Orchards.

When travelers came to Kelowna from the north they would first travel past and through vast acreages of vegetable farms and tree fruits until they got to the auto courts, service stations and corner grocery stores that dotted along what is now Sutherland Avenue on the way to the centre of town and thus the Ferry Docks which would take them to Westbank.

If you want to reminisce a little and get the feel for those days, take a drive down Byrns Road between the traffic circle at Burtch and Guisachan and the intersection at Benvoulin Road. Little has changed there in the past 100 years.

As time goes by and more and more development eats up the orchards and flat cropland, I sincerely hope we all keep in mind what the fruit and farming industries have meant and still mean to our valley so this valuable resource, unique in Canada and much of the world, is preserved.

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